How to Read Comics the Marvel Way #1 (of 4)
Reading (superhero) comics can be harder than it looks. Sometimes that’s because the creators have created complex works that demand more from the reader than simply reading left-to-right in straight lines. Other times that’s because the creators are so hopped up on fame, money, and ego that they’ll vomit an incomprehensible mess onto the page and call it art. That last bit was a lot more common in the 90’s. So if you’ve been wanting to read (superhero) comics but have been too intimidated by the learning curve, don’t worry because writer Christopher Hastings and artist Scott Koblish have you covered.
The writer of “Gwenpool” and (every so often) “Deadpool” and the artist of those really cool flashback issues from the Posehn/Duggan run of “Deadpool” have come up with a miniseries to explain (superhero) comics’ unique vocabulary. So if you don’t know your word balloons from your panel gutters, you’ll find an explanation here. As well as a story involving Spider-Man who has been trapped in a comic book by Mysterio. Why? Because the best explanations for anything involve turning them into story as well.
Empyre #’s 1&2 (of 6): Is it event season already? Oh what am I saying, event season never stops at Marvel these days. As is evidenced here by this six-issue miniseries from co-writers Al Ewing and Dan Slott, and artist Valerio Schiti. The high concept for the proceedings is that the Kree and Skrull Empires have unified under Young Avenger Hulkling’s rule and have now set their sights on Earth. I don’t know why Hulkling is allowing this, it’s possible I may have missed something in the buildup. Which was kicked off in the pages of the “Incoming!” one-shot at the end of the last year (though something tells me that Ewing may have been kicking this idea around since the time of his “New Avengers” run).
Will it be worth your time? Probably. Ewing has regularly done great work at Marvel even before his work on “Immortal Hulk” catapulted him to the big leagues. Slott is no slouch either, but his work on “Iron Man” and “Fantastic Four” has been lacking the inventiveness that made his “Amazing Spider-Man” so much fun to read. Schiti has also shown that he knows how to do cosmic stories after his work with Bendis on “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’ll just have to show that he can deliver some epic scale to go along with it.
Oh, and there are plenty of tie-ins for this event in these solicitations as well. Including…
X-Men #10: In which the Summers family home on the moon gets some new and very unwelcome neighbors. Outside of the events he wrote, Hickman’s “Avengers” run didn’t tie into many other events. Save for “Original Sin” because he was able to leverage its premise -- superheroes remember forgotten memories -- to kick off the “Infinite Avengers” arc. Will we get another storyline out of this event or is this just a one-and-done event. There’s only one way to find out: Wait for next month’s solicitations!
Marvel Zombies Resurrection #1 (of 4): This series never actually died. Its corpse just lies motionless for a while until someone gives it a kick and it shambles back to life again. The creators doing the kicking here are writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Leonard Kirk. This time around the virus-ridden corpse of Galactus has reached Earth and it’s up to Spider-Man and a bunch of random heroes to contain the outbreak. I can take this or leave it, but if you’d like to remember a time when this franchise was a big deal, Marvel is also publishing Marvel Tales: The Original Marvel Zombies #1 which reprints the Mark Millar/Greg Land arc of “Ultimate Fantastic Four” which introduced the concept and the first issue of the “Marvel Zombies” miniseries from Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips who made it better than it had any right to be.
The Punisher vs. Barracuda #1 (of 5): Well, this is a revival I wasn’t ever expecting to see. In case you’ve forgotten, Barracuda was one of the main villains from Garth Ennis’ legendary “Punisher MAX” run. Not only did he manage to kick Frank Castle’s ass twice (and really get under his skin that second time), but he survived one run-in with the character to go on to star in a great darkly comic miniseries. Mind you, this is after Barracuda was introduced in a way that established his character as just being the biggest, scariest, African-American man you’ve ever met in your life. Ennis did flesh the character out a bit more than that in his solo miniseries and his appearance in “Fury: My War Gone Bye,” but bringing Barracuda back in this current social climate seems like writer Ed Brisson is just asking for trouble. This is even before you consider the difficulty in transitioning such an extreme character into the Marvel Universe proper. Best of luck to him, and artist Declan Shalvey who I hope gets back to drawing “Injection” after this.
X-Factor #1: As established in “House of X” and “Powers of X,” the X-Men now have a group of five mutants who can resurrect any previously dead mutant. Rule #1 in doing this is to make sure said mutant is actually dead and not just missing. Addressing that issue is the new team of Polaris, Northstar, Prodigy, Eye-Boy, Daken, and Rachel “Prestige” Summers. It’s not as oddball an assemblage as the one over in “Hellions,” though it’s hard to imagine Daken playing nice with anyone here. Leah Williams writes and David Baldeon draws the team’s exploits, which will no doubt involve dealing with what happens when a still-living mutant gets resurrected. Trust me on that one, it’ll happen eventually.
Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising Prelude: Just in case anyone’s worried that this is some kind of follow-up to the infamous “Sins Past” arc in “Amazing” where it was revealed that Gwen Stacy had slept with Norman Osborne, it isn’t. The “Sins” in this title is a reference to an old Spider-Man villain known as the Sin-Eater who killed police officer Jean DeWolfe a few decades back. Now the Sin-Eater has returned and it’s working with current shadowy villain Kindred. That’s what I’ve gathered from the solicitations. It’s possible that writer Nick Spencer could still reference the Gwen/Norman business, though. As his “Captain America: Steve Rogers” run made quite clear, he loves to troll his audience.
Immortal Hulk: The Threshing Place #1: I think I know what the plan is with that Spider-Man-centric “Immortal Hulk” one-shot from a couple months ago. With the series under Al Ewing’s firm guidance, these one-shots are meant to give other creators a shot at taking on his version of the character. That said, Jeff Lemire doesn’t really strike me as the kind of creator who’d be a good fit for him. The Devil Hulk is all about butting up against superhero conventions and seeing how far they’ll bend before they break. Lemire… doesn’t really do that, even with his creator-owned work. For him, it’s all about the execution as seen through the art. Fortunately he’s got “Thor” veteran Mike Del Mundo on hand to draw the hell out of this farmland-set adventure. You’re surprised by this setting? You haven’t read many of Lemire’s comics, have you…
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #’s 1&2: Huh. Much as I like this series, I didn’t think “Aphra” had been getting enough sales or buzz to allow for further adventures of the galaxy’s most unscrupulous archaeologist. Shows what I know as this series follows “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader” into the post-”Empire Strikes Back” era where the galaxy is now a much more dangerous place for everyone. That’s not going to stop Chelli Aphra, however, once she gets a lead on the cursed artifact known as the Rings of Vaale. Bringing us the doctor’s adventures this time around are writer Alyssa Wong and artist Marika Cresta -- two names I’m completely unfamiliar with, but am willing to give a shot for Aphra’s sake.
X-Force by Benjamin Percy vol. 1 & New Mutants by Jonathan Hickman vol. 1: With all of the new series spinning out of “Dawn of X,” it’s going to be hard to tell which ones to buy. But don’t worry, I’ve got a plan for that once April rolls around. Until then, these are the only other “X-Men” series I’m planning to buy in addition to “X-Men” proper. The reason I’m buying “New Mutants” should be obvious, and even though the series is co-written by Ed Brisson, this volume is only collecting the first two issues and the Hickman-written #’s 5 & 7. Which is odd, but I’ll buy it for the writer. Ditto for “X-Force,” which I’ve been hearing good things about and its writer for even longer. Time to see if the Percy hype is real!
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren: Does what it says on the tin, I would think. Which is good because it would’ve been nice if the recent trilogy had touched on this a bit more. Filling in the blanks are “Star Wars” veterans Charles Soule (because, fortunately for us, he really can’t get enough of the franchise) and artist Will Sliney.
Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Rebellion vol. 4: I haven’t picked up Marvel’s reissuing of all the “Star Wars” comics published by Dark Horse for one good reason: I already have most of them. The series collected here, however, was an exception that I never got around to fixing. “Rebellion” hailed from the time that the company was looking to expand its ongoing “Star Wars” series -- to the point where they had four going at once. Outrageous, I know. “Rebellion” was the one set in the aftermath of ”Episode IV” and I never got around to checking it out and missed seeing its writer Rob Williams in action before he went onto bigger and better things at Marvel and DC. So I’m really thinking about picking this up, even if it is quite pricey at $45 for 496 pages.
Young Avengers by Gillen & McKelvie: The Complete Collection: One more for the “If you haven’t bought it by now…” collection. Also, if you get this and like it, remember that it was only the middle part of Loki’s story from this era. Go check out both “Journey Into Mystery: Complete Collections” by Gillen and “Loki: Agent of Asgard -- Complete Collection” by Al Ewing for the respective beginning and ending of his story.